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Tropical Forest Products

woods, forests, tropics, markets, regions, wood, rubber and cultivated

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TROPICAL FOREST PRODUCTS. The products of forests are usually divided into two great groups, as follows: (1) Major forest products, such as wood used for construction purposes and for special uses, as furniture, cabinet work, wood used for small articles of all kinds, etc.; (2) Minor forest products in clude firewood, tannin extracts, dyes, rubber, gutta percha, rattan, bamboo, wood oils, resins and various forest plants that produce medicinal products, like quinine, cocaine, sarsaparilla, epicac, camphor, etc. As a matter of fact, the value of these minor products of tropical for ests consumed in the world's markets greatly exceed the value of the major products. In deed, so great is the demand for some of the minor forest products that many of them have almost entirely become cultivated ones. Ten or 15 years ago while most of the rubber of commerce came from a wild forest tree (Hevca braeiliensis) of the Amazon valley, approxi mately 80 per cent of the rubber used to-day is from cultivated plantations of this tree in the Eastern tropics.

Kapoc is the commercial name for the cot ton from the so-called cotton tree (Ceiba pen tandra) and is a native of tropical America, but the chief source of this valuable product, used principally in stuffing mattresses, is from plantations in Java. Formerly the chief source of the Peruvian bark, quinine (Cinchona spe cies) was from the wild forests of Ecuador, Colombia and Peru. To-day most of the qui nine comes from cultivated plantations in India and Java. The lack of cheap labor in the Ameri can tropics is the chief reason why these valuable products are cultivated in the Eastern tropics.

Because the climatic conditions of temperate regions are not favorable for the production of many tropical minor forest products, the tem perate markets must always depend on the tropics for most of them unless synthetic prod ucts can be substituted. While efforts made to produce synthetic rubber have not proved suc cessful, yet the manufacture of synthetic dyes has greatly reduced the demands for the dye woods of the tropics, hence until the war greatly, but temporarily, stimulated the use of tropical dye woods, the amount of these woods used in the markets is not likely to be greatly increased.

On the other hand tropical woods for con struction purposes have not been in demand in the great lumber markets of the world, the United States and Europe, principally because the forest of these regions have light timbers in large quantities that are better suited for general construction timbers than the so-called hardwoods of the tropics. The coniferous

woods, or softwoods, of the temperate regions of North America, Europe and Asia stand in sharp contrast with that of the hardwood for ests of the tropics. On the one hand coniferous forests occur in pure, or nearly pure, stands that make their lumbering on a large scale more profitable, hence the lumber industry has been highly developed; on the other hand the hard wood tropical forests are more complex in character and usually far away from well developed industrial regions, hence capital has not been attracted to their exploitation. on a large scale. Moreover, because of the great development of the lumber industry, es pecially in the United States, there has been an overproduction; the surplus finds its way to all parts of the world and large amounts have been absorbed by tropical countries. The con tribution that tropical forests have made to the lumber markets has been woods for special uses rather than those for general construction purposes. Many woods of tropical countries are used locally for general construction pur poses, that never find their way into outside markets. The study of tropical forests show that while they are more complex in composi tion than coniferous forests of temperate re gions, yet this complexity is not so great as formerly supposed. The complexity is increased by the undergrowth trees that do not reach commercial size. The trees that reach huge size and overtop the undergrowth species are composed of comparatively few species whose woods are little known. Also,•a large percen tage of these trees produce rather soft hard woods that are easily worked. Thus, the esti mated stand of timber in the Philippines is 200,000,000,000 board feet, more than 100,000, 000,000 of which are light hardwoods that can be and are being substituted locally for many purposes to which imported coniferous woods were put. These forests also occur in sufficiently heavy stands to warrant the establishment of fairly large lumbering operations that will re duce the cost of their utilization. A recent estimate of the area and stand of timber in some of the large tropical forest regions is as follows: The forested area of the United States is estimated at 550,000,000 acres, carrying a stand of timber of 2,800,000,000,000 board feet. Thus the Amazon region alone is estimated to have some 600,000,000,000 feet more than is found in the United States.

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